The way Ben Asselin describes Luikan Q makes one think that maybe, just maybe, this is the horse he’s always been looking for.
“I think he’s a typical championship horse,” said Asselin of his relatively new 12-year-old partner. “He’s the type of horse that is made for a world championship or Olympic Games or five-star events. It comes very naturally and easily for him to jump the height and the width of those obstacles. And he also has a lot of natural energy. He gets better and better the more he jumps.”
Luikan Q – a large light bay nicknamed Luke – is a British-bred horse which Attache’ Stables acquired in October of 2019, after Asselin watched him jump the Spruce Meadows Masters tournament teamed with Swedish rider Angelie Von Essen.
“Right off the bat, it was very easy to tell that he was a scopey horse; he had a lot of nice blood and his own motor, but also a tricky enough character to him,” Asselin explained. “You have to understand him a little bit and that played into taking a while for the two of us to gel.
“I’d say the first year I rode him we had some good competitions, but a lot of ups and downs ‒ not much consistency together. I think now, the last six months, we’ve kind of put it together and we both understand each other a little better now.”
The 27-year-old Asselin – son of Canadian Olympian Jonathan Asselin and Nancy Southern, whose family owns Spruce Meadows – also alludes to the horse’s intelligence.
“At home he would be pretty laid back, actually very laid back,” he noted. “He almost needs a bit of motivating to work at home. But once he steps foot on the show grounds, he has a ton of character and a lot of energy at the tournaments. It takes a couple of days, really, to get him focused on his job.”
Luikan Q likes his people, especially his groom Alana Hammond. “He’s a very friendly horse in the stable. He’s easy to handle, easy enough to ride,” said Asselin. “He loves going out for hacks in the woods there. He’s quite friendly with all the horses. I’d say that Alana would be one of his closest friends; she takes good care of him. I’d like to say I’m up there as a friend as well.”
The getting-to-know-you process for rider and horse has been a bit stilted due to the pandemic and the haphazard schedule of events. It wasn’t until this past winter in California that Asselin began to feel a real kinship with Luke.
“The last year and a half has been really hard to get on a roll anywhere,” he admitted. “To be honest, I didn’t get to campaign the horse as much as I would have liked to last year. So that was tough, developing a new partnership and not having any tournaments to gel together. But I would say that he was incredibly consistent this winter circuit in Thermal. He jumped I think four FEI grand prix, all three-star or above. His worst placing was an 11th.
“The last grand prix was a difficult track; there were only two clear rounds. He had a very unfortunate light touch on the third-to-last obstacle on the course, but we were fast enough of the four-faulters to maintain fifth position. But I’d say that was probably the biggest track we’ve jumped together and I was thrilled with how easy it was for him to do that.”
Currently, Asselin and Luikan Q are in Kentucky competing in some FEI events there. From there, he hopes to get to Michigan for shows in Traverse City, then a little time off prior to Spruce Meadows.
“I’d say our main goal this year is the Masters grand prix in September,” he said. “I think that’s a competition that is well-suited to that horse. And also looking forward, past that, the world championships next year wouldn’t be far off to see if he would be a very good contender for Canada.”
Breed: Anglo European Studbook (AES)
Sire/dam: Luidam x Camina Van De Kornelishoeve (Kannan)
Breeder: Dave Murray (GBR)
Barn name: Luke
Previously ridden by: Angelie Von Essen (SWE), Paul Kennedy (IRL)
Top-5 2021 results (Thermal, CA):
March 21 – 5th, $250,000 1.55m Grand Prix
Feb 28 – 4th, $137,000 1.55m Grand Prix
Feb 7 – 3rd, $137,000 1.55m Grand Prix
Fave food: “I would say anything and everything. Whether it’s a banana, carrot, mint, paddock cookies … he’s a very good eater!